I think most
users of the Internet are looking for high speed access
to the web. The limitations of the telephone system make
surfing the web and downloading big files a frustrating
business - particularly in rural areas where 56 kbps
means realistically 30 kbps+ is the most you can hope for.
Sitting out here
on a farm near Metcalfe I had long ago resigned myself to
dial-up service with the faint future possibility of a
high speed satellite hook up. This dream connection was
promised to users of Expressvu and Star Choice, but so
far hasn't come on stream. Imagine my surprise when I
read an article in a local rural paper that indicated
that High Speed Wireless Internet was now available in
the Metcalfe area and a number of other Eastern Ontario
locations. A quick phone call confirmed this.
The local hub is
on a Bell tower in Metcalfe, a scant two miles from my
house with a perfect line-of-sight path for the signals.
What speed could I expect? "Oh, our residential
system will handle up to 2 Mbps", was the reply...
Wow! This was really tempting, but what would it cost?
Well it turned out installation (which includes a rooftop
antenna, a radio modem, an Ethernet card in one's PC and
configuration of the computer) was $400. Monthly charges
for unlimited access were $50. I hesitated until a phone
call to my accountant confirmed the fact that all the
expenses could be written off against the farm. That
decided it, and a few days later the installation crew
arrived and got everything set up in just a few hours.
So what is it
like? Well its certainly a lot faster than that old 56
kbps dial-up modem, but the speed is all over the place.
I spent several hours trying out the various speed tests
available on the web and the results - no surprise - are
highly variable. The same test repeated gives different
answers each time. Some web pages snap onto the screen
almost immediately while others take several seconds to
load. Mail, downloaded from a local server, comes in at
blinding speed. I'm now encouraging my friends to send me
e- mails with lots of attached photos! For example 15
JPEG images arrived this morning (750 kb in total) and
took about six seconds to download.
My McAfee virus
DAT updates - a file of just over 1Mb - took 20 seconds
to download as compared to 10 minutes over phone lines.
Another good example is the radar weather scan I get from
Rochester, New York. A great picture of precipitation
right across the province. The scan can be "animated",
essentially six hourly scans are displayed in sequence so
you can see those rain showers moving across the screen
just like on TV. With the old modem it took 3-4 minutes
to download the images before the animation began. With
the High Speed connection, its up and running in about
Well, enough of
these generalities. I've spent some time on my two modems
to give you some comparisons of performance using some of
the speed tests available on the web. Bear in mind what I
mentioned earlier that test results are variable but I
hope the figures below will give you a little better idea
of the improvements I'm now experiencing. Where possible
I have bracketed the 56k phone line modem results for the
bandwidth speed test 2472 kbps (26 kbps)
modem speed test [10Mb file from Winnipeg] 700 kbps
3. Sympatico [1
Mb file] 2091 kbps (93 kbps)
4. CNET speed
test 132 kbps (26 kbps)
5. Modem speed
test page [700 kb image] 179 kbps (3.31 kbps!)
Atlanta Georgia [1 Mb image] 965 kbps
7. CNET (MSN) 75.7
By the way, my
PC is an older 133 MHz Pentium with a not- very-fast
video card. The internal bus speed seems more than
capable of handling anything the High Speed modem can
Where can you
get this service from? Well the company is Storm
Internet, www.storm.ca, and they are strictly in
the rural areas of Eastern Ontario. No service is
available within the City proper. Click on "map"
www.storm.ca/corp_services/corp_services.html and you can
see if you are within their projected coverage. You need
a line-of-sight path to the local tower. Trees in the way
are a no-no at these frequencies.
Well is it all
worth it? I think I would have to say "It depends..."
If you regularly download large files or receive big
attachments to e-mails it could be worth the extra money.
As far as the web is concerned, the faster web surfing is
nice to have but not worth the expense. On balance I
wouldn't have upgraded without the assurance that the
whole package would be a farm expense. So if you are
running a home business, go for it, but otherwise read a
newspaper while you wait for the next web page to
Storm High Speed Wireless Internet (Proprietary)
$400 set-up fee + $50 monthly access
Originally published: March, 2001